Rule No.1: Never be too disappointed. – A guide to macarons

Edit: You might also want to check out my updated guide to macarons: Rule no. 2 – Be patient!

First of all – what is a macaron? (If there’s anyone out there not having been introduced to macarons yet)

It’s the most tempting, sweet and cute treat I’ve eaten so far. It consists of a shell, made from powdered almonds and meringue, and a filling, for example ganache, buttercream, jam, … The macaron’s origin is known to be France, but as far as I know, the popular macaron which is described here is not really “the” french macaron. There are many different versions of macarons in the different regions of France, varying in the questions of soft or crunchy, filling or no filling and so on. Our much-valued macaron was made famous by Parisian patissieries like “Ladurée” or “Pierre Hermé”, so it kind of comes from Paris. The reason why it got so popular is probably its cute look or the overwhelming taste, or maybe the combination of both.

A perfect macaron is sweet, slightly crispy outside, then fluffly and creamy in the middle. It simply melts in your mouth and makes you want to have MORE. But you never get the urge to stuff yourself with macarons, you want to enjoy every single bite, no, every single crumb of it. At least that’s my personal experience with macarons. I’ve baked macarons for different people, but even those barbaric guys who decided to eat a macaron like an Oreo biscuit (seperate the shells, eat the filling first and then dip the cookies into milk before eating – it was really cruel to watch my macarons get tortured like this) learned to have respect for the elegance of a macaron after trying their first one and withstood gulping down all the macarons.

Okay, lets get back to serious. Of course, this point of view is just my personal opinion and I’m not angry with anyone who has got different opinions (or decides to devour macarons). I just wanted to express how precious macarons are to me because of their outstanding appearance and taste and also because of the great effort they can take 😉

Well, but that’s just what macarons are supposed to be like. What you get when you try to make a batch at home too often looks like this:

Cracked shells, macarons without “le pied” – the characteristical cute little foot of the shell, holes in the surface of the shells, … there’s plenty of ways in which the look of the macaron can be affected. As far as my experience allows me to say, it depends a lot on the technique of making the macarons, but also on atmospheric humidity and oven temperature whether your macarons look like they should or not. But no matter how often my macarons turned out to have cracked shells or no “pieds”, I fortunately never messed up the taste and texture. Nevertheless, here are a few tips to avoid not-nice-looking macarons:

  • To avoid cracks in the surface of the macarons, don’t bake them at too high temperature. If your first batch has got cracks all over, try to bake the next batch at lower temperature. (With my oven, somewhere between 165ºC / 330ºF and 175ºC / 345ºF works well. But each oven is a little different, so you’ll just have to find the perfect temperature for your oven ;))
  • For getting the cute little foot, try to pipe the macarons in a “blob”, not in a swirl. You do that by holding the piping tip about 3mm over the baking paper sheet, then carefully press a little batter onto the sheet while lifting the piping tip another 2-3mm. The batter should come out of the piping tip in a flat, round blob. Shortly before your macaron is large enough, stop squeezing out the batter and carefully remove the piping tip from the macaron with a smooth, swirl-like movement so that the vanishing batter-stream evenly unites with the whole macaron. This way, you keep the surface as flat as possible.
    By piping the macaron in a “blob”, you prevent air bubbles in the batter so that the macaron rises equally, which is – as far as I experienced – important for getting “le pied”.
  • For a smooth and even surface, the consistency of the batter needs to be right. Which means on the one hand, don’t overmix while combining almonds with whipped egg whites. If you mix or even beat the meringue for too long, its flufflyness will dissolve. But on the other hand, the batter needs to be liquid enough so that the unbaked macaron’s surface flattens after being piped onto the baking paper sheet. If the macarons don’t flatten on their own, try to move the baking tray from left to right or back and forth for smoothen the macarons’ surfaces.
    However, for the perfect consistency of the batter, I recommend using recipes with exact measurements (for example “64g egg whites” instead of “2 medium egg whites” – 2 medium egg whites can differ between 60 grams and 80 grams!).
  • For measuring egg whites as exactly as possible, seperate the eggs a few hours before making the batter and cool egg whites in the refridgerator. This will let the egg whites get more liquid and thereby more easy to measure.
You see, making perfect macarons can be pretty tricky. So don’t be too disappointed if they don’t look like you expected them to be when baking them for the first (or second, or third) time. I’m just an amateur baker so I can’t guarantee that my tips are 100% correct and will ensure your macarons to become sophisticated. But I hope that they’ll help you making these (or any other) macarons:
Macarons a la framboise – Part 1: macarons
makes about 40-50 macarons(adapted from “フランス仕込みの手作りマカロン Macarons maison appris en France”)
47g egg whites
125g powdered sugar
125g almond meal
red food coloringfor the meringue:
47g egg whites
30g warm water
125g sugar
  • Preheat oven to 170ºC / 340ºF. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Put 47g egg whites into a bowl and add food coloring. (It’s better to use a little bit too much color than using less, because the batter will get brighter and paler when adding the meringue later!)
    Stir and then add powdered almonds and powdered sugar. Mix until well combined. The batter should be bright red by now. If not, add some more food coloring!
  • Next, prepare the Italian meringue. Put sugar into a small saucepan and pour the warm water over it. On medium heat, bring water and sugar to a boil. Be very careful not to burn the sugar, because you’ll need 100%-clear sirup for the meringue. (If you have got one, check with a candy thermometer: the temperature should stay below 118ºC / 244ºF!) Let boil until you’ve got a slightly vicious sirup. You can check the consistency by taking a little sirup with a spoon and immersing the spoon directly into a bowl with cold water. Take the spoon out of the water again and test the consistency with your fingertips. If it feels viscious (like honey or maple sirup), remove the saucepan from the stove and let the sirup cool. If it still feels very liquid, let boil for another few minutes and then test the consistency again.
    When the sirup is ready, whip the eggwhites in a clean bowl until it forms stiff peaks. Add the sirup and continue beating until glossy and firm.
  • Gently fold the meringue into the red batter (preferably with a rubber spatula) until there are no streaks of white left. Fill the batter into a pastry bag with 0,8cm-1cm diameter tip. Carefully pipe small “blobs” (about 3cm diameter) onto a baking tray lined with parchment paper. (Consider the tips above!)
  • Bake 8-10 minutes. Remove the macarons from oven and let cool until they’re easily detachable from the parchment paper before transferring them to a cooling rack. Let cool completely before filling.
Macarons a la framboise – Part 2: filling
makes enough for about 40-50 macarons(vanilla filling adapted from フランス仕込みの手作りマカロン Macarons maison appris en France)
raspberry jam (I needed about 1-2 tablespoons)
50g butter (at room temperature)
50g marzipan
1/2 vanilla bean
  • Cut butter and marzipan into small pieces and put them into a bowl.
  • Slice the 1/2 vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds and put them into the bowl with marzipan and butter. Stir everything until everything is well combined. (This might take a while!)
  • Put a little raspberry jam onto the flat side of one macaron shell. Take another shell and put some of the vanilla-marzipan-butter onto it, then place it on top of the raspberry jam other macaron shell. Fill all of the macarons like this and enjoy them!

P.S. I’d love to hear (or read) your recommendations for making perfect macarons!

8 thoughts on “Rule No.1: Never be too disappointed. – A guide to macarons

  1. Super cute!! Thank you for the tips…I’ve had my fair share of macaron failures (and one success!) recently and am happy to see some of my sad macaron moments explained.

    1. Hi Laura,

      for avoiding bubbles (I guess that’s what you mean by “volcanoes”?) you need to smoothen the batter after folding in the almond-sugar mix into the meringue. You do that by using a bowl scraper and scrape the batter very carefully until smooth and rather liquid (test by taking some batter up on the scraper and letting it “fall down” into the bowl – if it doesn’t fall in chunks but runs smoothly, it’s good!) but be careful not to over mix and break down too much of the meringue!

      Considering the feet,
      -> try to pipe the batter in a “blob”, not a swirl onto the baking sheet (as I described above :)) and
      -> let the macarons sit for a while (10-20minutes, until a skin has formed; test by carefully touching the surface of an unbaked macaron – when the batter does not stick to your fingertip anymore, they’re ready to be baked) so that the macaron shells can rise evenly.

      good luck & have fun baking 😉

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